Perry M. Murray was born on Nov. 22, 1868 at Normalville, Fayette County, the eldest son of Elijah and Hannah (Minerd) Murray.
Tragically, in May 1885, when Perry was 17, his parents died eight days apart. He took their deaths very hard, and suffered emotionally the rest of his life. He never married.
Despite a long, deep emotional depression, the Connellsville Courier once reported that "He [is] a very quiet young man and liked by all."
Perry lived most of his young life in the Normalville area. Research of old newspapers shows that in August 1896 he worked in Scottdale, PA, though by November of that year, he had moved to Everson, PA. He was still residing in Everson in 1900, and over the years was employed by the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad.
Yet when he was in his 20s, in 1894, Perry's thoughts turned dark, and he tried to take his own life using a revolver. The Courier reported that with the bullet piercing his lung, just above his heart, "all hope he will recover." He was sent to Dixmont Asylum for the Insane near Pittsburgh, where he eventually "recovered his reason" for a time.
Upon his release, Perry returned home to Springfield Township, where he is known to have been friends with Jacob Ritenour and to have visited Ritenour's home.
Again in February 1904, the 34-year-old Perry was forcibly returned to Dixmont after his arrest by Constable Barthold Rottler at the home of a sister in Connellsville. The Courier reported that he "has been mentally unbalanced for some time. He was placed in the police station and papers were made out for his removal to Dixmont" on the 11 a.m. train. Having spent time at Dixmont a second time, he was thought "cured" and released.
In February 1905, his behavior again led to his arrest. After stopping into a Connellsville restaurant for a bowl of soup, he got into an argument with proprietor S.M. Gilbert, and was ordered to leave. In a top headline story, "Lively Smashup in a Peach St. Restaurant," the Courier reported that:
He returned a few minutes later and threw a lump of coal through the window and then ran. Mr. Gilbert started after him but Murray eluded him. After the first disturbance had quieted down Murray returned with a stone and let it go at the other window. He smashed it to smithereeens. Gilbert and the neighborhood was thoroughly aroused and several men went in search of Murray again but he got away from them. In the meantime the police were notified and Officers waited in the alley. Murray came walking leisurely down the street and the officers arrested him. He had a big stone in his pocket and was bent on smashing the remaining windows. This morning before Burgess Patterson Murray denied all connection with the smashing incident, but he was fined $5 and the damage to the restaurant.
Several years passed before Perry raised such concern with his family that he again was institutionalized at Dixmont. In mid-December 1908, his relatives feared violence at his hands, and his brother George signed a request before Justice of the Peace William P. Clark to have him re-admitted. Perry, now 40, was arrested by Constable J.W. Mitchell, apparently spent the night in jail and was escorted to Dixmont the following day.
Perry eventually was released from his fourth stay at Dixmont. He returned to his native Fayette County, and resided with his sister and brother in law, Agnes and Nelson Kern.
A niece recalled that Perry was good looking, and always well-dressed. Considered kindly but odd, and very religious, he was often seen reading his Bible.
In later years, Perry moved from place to place, staying for short intervals with his nieces and nephews.
In August 1951, he moved in with his niece Anna Warrick at Mutual, near Greensburg, Westmoreland County, PA. He died there two months later, on Oct. 24, 1951.
Fittingly, he was buried beside his beloved parents at the Normalville Cemetery.
In July 2007, his grave was one of the first stops on a cemetery tour during the National Minerd-Minard-Miner-Minor Reunion.
Copyright © 2001, 2005, 2007, 2020 Mark A. Miner